Gửi những người lao động Việt Nam ở nước ngoài

Nếu bạn từng là người Việt ở nước ngoài, bạn sẽ biết không nơi nào cho bạn cảm giác là nhà như ở Việt Nam!

“Nếu bạn đã từng ra nước ngoài, bạn sẽ biết rằng không nơi nào có cảm giác giống như ở Việt Nam.”

Tôi đọc được lời bình luận này trên 1 trang Facebook, cùng với rất nhiều những chia sẻ khác từ người lao động Việt Nam đang ở nước ngoài. Mỗi lời chia sẻ đều chung 1 lời nhắn nhủ. Họ đã vật lộn với nỗi nhớ nhà ra sao. Họ đối mặt với sự phân biệt đối xử thế nào. Hay họ đã lo lắng rất nhiều để cố gắng kiếm đủ sống nơi xứ lạ.

Sau khi đọc những dòng bình luận, tôi không khỏi chạnh lòng. Tôi nhớ về quê tôi lúc trước, cũng có nhiều người dứt áo ra đi khi không tìm được kế mưu sinh, đủ nuôi gia đình. Họ lên thủ đô, vào miền nam, thậm chí đi xa lắm, đến nước ngoài để kiếm sống.

Khi học về Kinh tế ở trường Đại học, tôi cũng có tìm hiểu về Kiều hối và sự quan trọng của lượng ngoại tệ này với Việt Nam. Hàng năm, người Việt ở nước ngoài, phần lớn là những người đi xuất khẩu lao động, đã gửi một số tiền không nhỏ về cho gia đình, người thân của mình. Vào năm 2015, lượng kiều hồi lên đến 12,25 tỷ đô la Mỹ — USD (khoảng 275.043 tỷ đồng), đưa Việt Nam đứng thứ 11 trên toàn cầu và thứ 3 trong khu vực Đông Á — Thái Bình Dương, chỉ sau Trung Quốc và Philippines[1].

Trong khi đó, tổng sản phẩm trong nước (GDP) của Việt Nam đạt khoảng 204 tỷ USD[2]. Vậy là, những người con xa xứ đã tằn tiện cuộc sống ở xứ người để có thể gửi về cho gia đình với tỷ trọng lên đến gần 6% GDP quốc gia, cao hơn cả ngành du lịch của Việt Nam khi tổng thu là khoảng 10–11 tỷ USD cùng năm[3].

Cá nhân tôi cũng được đến Canada, Hoa Kỳ và các nước châu Âu, gặp gỡ một số người Việt Nam đang làm việc ở đó. Họ là những con người chăm chỉ làm việc, chỉ mong kiếm được chút tiền để một phần trang trải cuộc sống tha hương đắt đỏ, còn lại thì tích góp gửi về gia đình. Họ cũng vất vả ở hải ngoại, nhưng có lúc chỉ được nhận một khoản tiền công thấp hơn với người bản địa. Không biết rằng, để có được lượng kiều hối lớn như vậy, gần 5 triệu đồng bào lao động ở 103 quốc gia[4] đã trải qua bao cay đắng, đối mặt với nhiều rủi ro ra sao?

Hãy luôn mạnh mẽ!


[1] http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/149900/vietnam-receives-12-25-bln-in-remittances-in-2015.html

[2] http://viettimes.vn/gdp-viet-nam-2015-dat-204-ty-usd-nguoi-viet-thu-nhap-32003500-usd-sau-5-nam-27654.html

[3] http://vneconomy.vn/thoi-su/du-lich-viet-nam-sap-thanh-nganh-mui-nhon-20151108122232327.htm

[4] Statistics from the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/149900/vietnam-receives-12-25-bln-in-remittances-in-2015.html

Dear Vietnamese Workers Abroad,

“If you are a Vietnamese that has ever been abroad, you will know that no other place can feel like your home, Vietnam.”

I saw this comment on a Facebook page, along with dozens of others from migrant Vietnamese workers. Every one of them had the same message.


How they struggled with missing home. How they faced discrimination abroad. How they worried about trying to make ends meet.


After reading their comments, I was touched. It reminded me of my country before, when many people had to leave due to an inability to earn a living for the whole family. They went to the capital, moved to the South or even moved to foreign countries.

During my university economics course, I researched remittances and their important role in Vietnam. Every year, Vietnamese people abroad, mainly migrant workers, sent a huge amount of money to their families and relatives.

In 2015, the remittances reached US$12.25 billion (about VND275,043 billion), ranking Vietnam the 11th in the world and 3rd in the East Asia Pacific region, following only China and the Philippines[1].

Meanwhile, the gross domestic product was about US$204 billion[2]. Vietnamese workers abroad worked hard and saved a lot to send remittances home, which accounted for nearly 6 per cent of the national GDP — even higher than the whole tourism industry with its contribution of about US$10–11 billion in the same year[3].

I personally have had opportunities to travel to Canada, the US and some European countries, meeting several Vietnamese people working there. They are hard-working, just hoping to make some money to partially cover the expensive life abroad, while the rest is for sending home. They also struggle in foreign countries, sometimes receiving a lower wage than local people. How many difficulties do the nearly 5 million Vietnamese workers in 103 countries[4] have to face in order to send remittances home?

Stay strong,


[1] http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/149900/vietnam-receives-12-25-bln-in-remittances-in-2015.html

[2] http://viettimes.vn/gdp-viet-nam-2015-dat-204-ty-usd-nguoi-viet-thu-nhap-32003500-usd-sau-5-nam-27654.html

[3] http://vneconomy.vn/thoi-su/du-lich-viet-nam-sap-thanh-nganh-mui-nhon-20151108122232327.htm

[4] Statistics from the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/149900/vietnam-receives-12-25-bln-in-remittances-in-2015.html

Dear Linko


I would like to thank you for making sure that I always make it to work on time. I know you do not have to wait for me every morning as you have plenty of other customers you could be transporting during the morning rush. But either way you diligently still wait for me even on days I am running extremely late.

People have a lot of opinions about the way you and your colleagues ride and weave through traffic every morning, some go the extent of calling it a bit reckless, but I have always felt safe on the back of your bike. Maybe it is because I know how much pride you take in your job and how you view your bike as one of your most priced possessions.

It must not have been easy as a migrant to save up for the bike and I often wonder what you had to go through to save up all that money. You always tell me about how you miss your home country and that you hate the fact that you cannot frequently go back to visit your mother and sisters. But under that balaclava and helmet you blend in with all the other motorcycle drivers, you are judged as a collective, and are hardly identified as an individual.


I wonder if people ever ask you how you are, or how your day is going whilst they are on the back of your bike, or do they just want to get to where they are going.


I am sure they will be shocked if you told them that you have two lovely daughters who you work hard to support and provide for. What if, whilst waiting for a red light to turn green you randomly told a passenger that you wished you were at your daughter’s school function which you always miss because you are zipping up and down town taking people to their appointments. Would the passenger appreciate what you do more? I once told you to try it, but your shyness always gets the best of you.

The story of how you left your home country is sad but yet inspiring at the same time. With very little on you, you had to migrate with your two daughters so that they could get a better future. I never understood why you always got angry when a car driver got too close to your bike as you rode. I mean you are the one doing the weaving in between the cars, surely the anger should be coming from the other end.


The answer to this dilemma dawned upon me when one evening whilst we were having a drink you were calculating the number of extra trips you had to make the next day so that you could raise enough money to take your daughter out for her birthday.


Every single minute that your bike is not on the road, your family feels the impact, so I now do understand why you do not want anything to ever happen to your bike.

You help a lot of people get to where they want to be, I am sure you have even transported people to their big job interviews, family celebrations and other momentous events, without them knowing that you are a migrant. You provide a service that we all need and appreciate but yet some people still have negative views towards migrants and the role they play in our society. Maybe one day all this will change.

In the mean time, I encourage you to continue being the wonderful father you are to your children and to continue working hard to provide for them. On behalf of all the commuters you transport every day, I would like to thank you for service you provide us so that we can achieve our daily goals.

Yours Sincerely,


Dear Fitri

I know we haven’t talked in a long time, but I wanted to reach out. When we met last year — albeit briefly — and you told me your story it stuck with me. It didn’t fit the pattern.

I had always seen in the news how domestic workers were being abused abroad, exploited for money by illegal recruiters or treated like second-class citizens by condescending employers. Awful, for sure, but as always these stories got a lot of media attention, then quickly fell out of the headlines. And nothing ever changed.

But your story was different. It surprised me. You migrated abroad to find work, and you actually had a pretty good family that you worked for. They gave you a day off, paid you a fair wage, and you were happy — for the most part.

It was your son who brought you back home.

As a mother working in another country, you were missing your son growing up, caring for him with your husband. You left to earn money for your family, to give your kid a better life, but it was bittersweet being so far from loved ones.

Finally, you came back home and found work, again as a domestic worker. You were able to be close to your family again. But this time your job threw you a curveball.

The family you worked for didn’t follow what you had initially agreed to do. Suddenly you were pressured into taking care of their kids 24 hours a day, staying at their house instead of going home to your own son. You had no time off, no rest. You had little bargaining power, and your employer wouldn’t listen to your concerns.


Their kids loved you, but was keeping this job worth being away from your own family? After all, that’s what drew you back home.


It was ironic, sad really, that you were abused in your own country. Stories like yours are rarely part of the national conversation on domestic workers’ rights — perhaps people just want to want to close their eyes to the fact that people from the same place can hurt each other. It’s easier to assign blame when the problem is far away.

I hope by now you’ve found a new family to work for, that your life has improved. And I hope that people start to realize that abuse of domestic workers isn’t just a problem abroad — it happens at home too.

Take care,

Dear migrants that I’ve interviewed

I’ve talked to many of you through my work as a researcher for an organization that supports migrants. I know I told you then, but just wanted to thank you again for participating in the interviews and focus group discussions that help make our work grounded in real, lived experiences.

Having moved from my home country to work in another country, the right to safe, fair and dignified migration is something that I believe should be available to everyone. Unfortunately, through news and many of your personal stories, I know this is not always the case. Even though the setting for our interviews has been in a professional setting, I’ve always walked away with a renewed sense of inspiration.

Similar to myself, you left your home countries searching to improve your life in some way.


Your reasons for moving to another country ranged from finding a job to pay for your younger brother to go to high school instead of you, to paying for your ailing father’s medical bills, to helping your parents out, to saving up for university tuition or your own business, to sending money home for your toddler who you had to leave at home with their grandparents, and to moving just experience of working and living in another country.


The reasons for migrating abroad are countless. Moving away from your home, your comfort, your friends, your family (and sometimes even your own children) is not always an easy task — but often exciting, and requires an enormous amount of strength. I am thankful to everyone who has shared his or her experience with me — both good and bad. And to those who have had countless challenges or negative experiences of being abused, tricked, or cheated — your strength to move past it and share your stories with others is incredible and inspiring.

Through our interviews and focus groups, you have not only helped to make sure our projects contribute to safe, fair and dignified migration for all, but you have also inspired me with your tenacity, resourcefulness, strength and ability to move forward despite challenges that have come your way. I am more open-minded, humble, stronger and dedicated to migration for all because of each of you.

The interviewer

To the woman with the baby

Before my son was born, I spent months finding the perfect apartment. Clean, bright, airy and safe. I decorated his nursery, following tips recommended in the baby books I was reading. I felt that everything had to be just perfect for his arrival.

Around the same time that I was doing this, a big fence was erected around the empty lot next door. A two-story wooden structure with hundreds of tiny dormitory-style rooms was hastily built inside.

Within days, the rooms were filled with migrant workers from a nearby construction site. Trucks arrived at all hours to pick up and drop off workers, everyone wearing the same uniform blue shirt of their employer.

And then you moved into one of the dormitories, with your baby in tow.

Here we were, both with a newborn son, living next door to each other — but in every other sense, worlds apart.

My son played in his air-conditioned playroom; your son played on the ground outside your room. I walked my son around the neighborhood in his fancy stroller; you walked your son around the same neighborhood in a sling.

There were lots of times I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t. As the boys got older, I thought about inviting you over for a play date, but I didn’t. I thought about bringing you the clothes my son had outgrown, but I didn’t.

Thinking back on it, I don’t know why I hesitated. Of course there was the language barrier, but more than that, I think it was because I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.

I know your situation wasn’t easy, but you and your son did seem very happy, always surrounded by friends, and with hundreds of aunties and uncles, all living together.

Watching your son playing and laughing, growing and learning made me think a lot about what children truly need. It’s not the ‘perfect’ apartment, the baby-proofed nursery, the air-conditioned playroom or the fancy stroller. They just need to be surrounded by people that love and nurture them.

Thank you for teaching me this lesson, albeit from afar.

The woman next door

About #LettersforMigrants

#LettersforMigrants is a new campaign from IOM X that aims to build public support for migrants’ well-being, showing that they’re human beings who deserve to be treated well.

To contribute, send us your letters to [email protected] and we’ll post them online!


Ideas for letters:

1. Personal stories if you have a connection to migration (e.g. a friend or family member who has migrated)

2. An open letter if you just want to express your support to migrant communities.

3. If you are a migrant, a letter about your experience and a message to the migrant worker community.


To make this more creative, we’re looking for:

Short letters around 400 words + a photo of yourself holding a white piece of paper that has a short, powerful quote from your letter written on it. Remember, large & legible handwriting counts and landscape photo orientation is best.

Letters can be in Southeast Asian languages (bonus points if you can do this!) or English.


And if you’re a superstar:

An audio recording of you reading your letter OR

A video recording (can be done with your phone) reading your letter


Good luck and thanks for helping out! Just email us your letters and recordings: [email protected]!

Dear Migrant Workers

A few years ago, I left Malaysia for the first time to embark on a study abroad journey in Australia. It was the first time I left home. I was excited in the beginning. The first few months were like a honeymoon. But the harsh reality kicked in after three months.

Like my peers, language and cultural barriers were key challenges. English isn’t my first language. But I knew that in order to achieve success as an international student in Australia, my main goal was to improve my English.

I then got involved in a campus student association to maximize my opportunities to enhance my communication skills and English language competency. As a result, I was invited to a forum to inaugurate the National Peak student representative organization to advocate for the needs of all international students in Australia. I was then elected as National Secretary and subsequently National President a few years later.


In this role, I have been able to witness how international students were being exploited in workplaces such as restaurants, retailers, cleaning companies and many other industry where international students tend to work part-time in.


This includes underpayment, workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying and other form of exploitation which are all considered against the Fair Work regulation in Australia.

The good news is there were a few who are willing to stand up and speak up against the wrong behaviours of those unscrupulous employers. In two recent cases, exploited students took action and eventually won the cases against their employers and received compensation.

Ever since then, I have learned something — Never Try, Never Know. Always stand up for your rights as no one else will. If no actions are taken, there will be no results. Just take the above cases as examples. I am very proud of the students.


This letter was written by a member of ASEAN Youth Organization

Dear sister, brother, uncle, aunt, father, mother, friend

I am writing to you who I feel connected to. Because just like my parents, you decided to leave your home country and look for job opportunities in a foreign country. And why did you decide to do this? Because your home country could never offer your children — the next generation — access to education, health, and even wealth, like you imagined in a more developed country.


Through the eyes of my parents, I can really imagine the pain you must have felt when you left your parents and siblings behind, your comfort zone, maybe even the love of your life.


Your journey has been hard from the start, you crossed borders, you experienced joy and sadness along the way, and you might even be feeling homesick until this very moment. But you did it. You provided a more aspiring future for your children, and soon enough they will be the greatest reward you could imagine. They will be able to take you on trips back to home, maybe even help you build a house.

I know it has been hard, and it still is. I know you have truly suffered in ways I could never imagine. I hope that my grateful letter enables me to show you the other side. The way your children feel about your brave decision, and how thankful we are.

I have not even touched upon the more ‘difficult’ issues. I know that next to mental challenges, there must have been many physical challenges as well. I hope that this letter will be one of the steps for me towards helping you, and making your — already very hard — decision easier to pursue.


Please hang in there, for I am sure better days will come.


All the best,


This letter was written by a member of ASEAN Youth Organization

Turning What You KNOW into What You DO!

Smoking is bad for our health, yet some of us continue to smoke.

Not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is dangerous, yet some of us still do it.

Regular exercise is important, yet some of us can go weeks (or years!) without working out.

We know what’s good for us, but we don’t always act accordingly.

This kind of thinking can also be applied to human trafficking and exploitation. Most aspirant migrants around the world know that human trafficking exists, but they probably don’t think that something like that could ever happen to them.


Those who migrate irregularly (without the right travel and work documents) might know that this is risky, but they are willing to take the risk because the potential benefits outweigh the risk of getting caught, such as a job in a country where they get paid more than in their home country.


Similarly, for consumers of everyday products, they might know that human trafficking exists in supply chains, but they might either not care that it’s happening or feel powerless to make a difference, so they continue to buy these products that may have been produced by exploited workers.

So what stops us from acting in a way that matches what we know? One factor, among others, is our attitude. The way we feel about a certain behaviour will dictate how we behave.

In order to get its audience to practice positive behaviours to help prevent human trafficking and exploitation, IOM X follows something called ‘Communication for Development’, or C4D for short. C4D is a people-centered process that uses communication tools and activities to help to create social and behaviour change in a meaningful and sustained way. It uses a participatory process to understand people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices (behaviours) around a certain issue, in order to be able to work with them to develop empowering messages and tools.

C4D, within the realm of human trafficking prevention, can help to strengthen messages, and their dissemination, about the risks of human trafficking and exploitation in order to achieve the desired preventative/protective behaviour change for both migrant workers and consumers..

IOM X uses five easy-to-follow steps steps to develop evidence-based content and activities.


Step 1: Analysis — Know your audience (includes problem analysis, audience analysis, behaviour analysis and communication analysis)

Step 2: Strategic Design — Know how to best reach your audience(includes setting SMART objectives, communication channel analysis, designing the communication strategy, developing a creative brief and drafting monitoring and evaluation plans)

Step 3: Development and Testing — Does it work? (includes developing content, developing action-messages and pre-testing)

Step 4: Implementation — Getting your message out there! (includes partnership building and outreach)

Step 5: Monitoring and Evaluation — How is it going? Will we do this again in the same way? (includes implementing monitoring and evaluation plans)

Guided by other C4D tools in existence, IOM X created its own toolkit for developing content and activities to aid counter trafficking. The toolkit will help readers understand C4D and Behaviour Change Communication (BCC), as well as develop a C4D strategy for counter-trafficking initiatives. The toolkit is a practical resource for programme managers and officers, research officers and communication specialists working on information, awareness-raising and/or behaviour change communication campaigns in the counter-trafficking sector.


To download the IOM X C4D Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Communication for Development (C4D) to Counter-trafficking Activities click here.

Rescued from One Facebook Message

Can social media help rescue victims of human trafficking? It might sound unbelievable, but recently we told you about Pisey¹, a distressed Cambodian man who contacted us on Facebook. Recruiters promised him a job aboard a foreign fishing vessel as a translator, but he soon found that he was being forced to perform hard labour, completely changing up what was agreed to in his contract.

Now stuck at port in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the fishing company wouldn’t let him go home without paying US$4,000. He was isolated, stranded on a small island thousands of miles away from his family in Cambodia.

In this world of likes, retweets and hearts, social media can feel like a bunch of noise, even fluff. Social media isn’t always the most “inspiring” communication outlet, but it is organic and it does capture real, live conversations. When put to good use, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Line can be powerful forces for change.

When Pisey first contacted us on Facebook, we could sense that this wasn’t the kind of message we normally receive — nor was it a hoax. We immediately got in touch with IOM Micronesia — as he was stranded in the Marshall Islands — and they and local law enforcement were able to cross-check the details of his story. Logs showed that his ship had indeed docked at this port, and his description of the surroundings matched up with real places.


Now that he wanted to go home due to violation of his contract, the vessel had left him behind, claiming he would have to come up with US$4,000 to get back to Cambodia.


You might be thinking, “How could this happen?” With stories of Cambodians being exploited on foreign fishing vessels dominating the headlines, surely he knew this was risky, right?

In fact, he did.

He and his family were aware of the danger, and they tried to ensure that he received a clear, fair contract. They even tried to find a reputable recruitment agency. Despite taking these precautions, he still fell victim to abuse.

In this case, Pisey was lucky to find a small shop on the island with Internet from where he could communicate with us. After verifying his location and checking that he had freedom of movement, law enforcement met with him to get more details. It turned out that he was truly stuck; the company was holding his passport — an indicator of forced labour. Fortunately, once law enforcement contacted the company, Pisey’s passport was immediately returned to him and he was soon booked on a flight back to Cambodia. Finally, he was going home.

Pisey’s story has a happy ending, but it also reflects gaps in protection for workers on fishing vessels. He was incredibly lucky to find Internet access on land and have the knowledge of how to get in touch with us for help.

Yet, he did not have any means of communication with the rest of the world aboard the ship, meaning he could not report the abuse until it docked. As many fishing vessels — especially those involved in illegal fishing — practice at-sea transshipments, this allows ships to avoid port controls and docking to let off workers. This isolation and lack of connection to the outside world makes workers extremely vulnerable to abuse.

In Pisey’s case, social media facilitated a quick, coordinated response between IOM and law enforcement, and we’re thankful that he was able to go home. But to stop exploitation in its tracks, we need to be developing a worker-driven reporting system that can be used at sea.


It is this access to communication, the building of a network that can act as a safety net, that is truly going to help workers in times of need.


To view country-specific helplines to report suspected human trafficking cases, please visit IOMX.org/FindHelp

To learn more about the exploitation of Cambodian men in the fishing industry, please visit IOMX.org/Fish and http://features.iom.int/stories/marked-men/

¹Name changed to protect identity.